published Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

No. 8 Florida starts slow but beats Georgia 64-47

  • photo
    Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) goes to the basket Wednesday as Georgia guard Charles Mann (4) defends in the first half of an NCAA basketball game onin Athens, Ga.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATHENS, Ga. — No. 8 Florida shook off a sluggish first half and romped past another Southeastern Conference opponent, beating Georgia 64-47 on Wednesday night behind 17 points from Scottie Wilbekin.

Florida (15-2, 5-0 SEC) trailed 27-24 at halftime, making just 1 of 9 attempts beyond the 3-point arc. But the Gators quickly turned things around after the break. Wilbeken and Mike Rosario hit consecutive 3s and forced Georgia into three straight turnovers.

The Gators led the rest of way, holding Georgia (7-11, 1-4) to only one field goal in the first 11 1-2 minutes of the second half.

Despite never leading in the first half, Florida added to its run of dominance in conference play. The Gators have won their first five SEC games by an average of nearly 25 points.

Wilbeken, who was averaging 8.3 points a game, matched his career high from a November victory over Central Florida. Kenny Boynton added 14 points, while Erik Murphy had 13.

Florida already had beaten Georgia 77-44 two weeks ago in Gainesville, but the Bulldogs were more competitive in this one, at least for a half. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the home team with 16 points, but no other Georgia player was in double figures.

Before a half-filled Stegeman Coliseum, the Bulldogs went right at the Gators from the opening tip, scoring the first six points and quickly building an 11-2 lead. Florida tied it a couple of times but, surprisingly, never had the lead before the break.

Georgia stayed on top with accurate shooting from beyond the arc, knocking down 6 of 11 by halftime. The Gators, by comparison, made just 1 of 9.

Caldwell-Pope finished off the half by swishing a long 3-pointer just before the buzzer, sending the Bulldogs racing off the court with the lead.

It didn’t last.

Florida has won 17 of the last 20 in the series and made up for a 76-62 loss in Athens late last season. The Gators finished 8 of 20 on 3-pointers.

Georgia was coming off its first SEC win of the season, a 67-58 victory over LSU. But the Bulldogs just didn’t have enough talent to knock off the Gators, having already lost non-conference games at home to Youngstown State, Southern Miss and Iona.

The Bulldogs’ second-half woes were summed up by Kenny Gaines, who went up for a dunk with about 5 minutes left but didn’t even clear the rim. The crowd groaned, many of them deciding that was a good time to head for home.

By the end, about the only fans left were wearing blue.

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